What are Aneurysms?
Aneurysms are a bulge in a blood vessel, usually an artery, caused by a weakening of the walls of that blood vessels. This can be caused by conditions such as congenital diseases, physical injury to the artery, or atherosclerosis. As long as aneurysms do not rupture, these bulges in the arteries can sometimes remain undetected in canines for years, particularly in locations such as the brain and the abdominal aorta. If an aneurysm bursts in the brain or in the aortic arteries coming from the heart, the results can be dire. In many cases, aneurysms can also cause dangerous blood clots to form.
Aneurysms are bulges that develop in the blood vessels due to a weakness that occurs in the vessel walls. Aneurysms usually arise in the arteries and can be extremely dangerous when they rupture.
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Symptoms of Aneurysms in Dogs
Symptoms of an aneurysm in dogs depend on where in the body they are located and sometimes show no symptoms until after they rupture. Symptoms of a cerebral aneurysm are generally non-existent until the vessel ruptures. When the blood vessel does break you may see:
- Bleeding from ears or nostrils
- Blue skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Rapid breathing
- Sudden death
- Unusual posture
Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm can cause some chest, back, or abdominal pain, but more often than not, there are no symptoms prior to rupture. Rupture can cause:
- Blue skin
- Bulge in the chest
- Pain in the chest or back
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden death
Other aneurysms can occur anywhere in the body and if symptoms do arise with or without a tear they may include:
- Cold limbs
- Lack of a pulse
- Leg pain
- Limb pain or weakness, particularly after exercise
- Paralysis of limb or limbs
- Pulsating lumps
A cerebral aneurysm is a weakened blood vessel that is located in the brain, it is exceedingly rare that a cerebral aneurysm is detected before it ruptures, and brain aneurysms that rupture are usually fatal.
A peripheral aneurysm refers to an aneurysm that occurs anywhere other than the brain or heart. These can take place in any part of the body but are most common behind the knee, in the groin area, and the carotid artery in the neck.
An aortic aneurysm affects the aorta and can be found either at the spot where the aorta extends into the chest (thoracic) or where the aorta narrows towards the dog’s hips (abdominal). The abdominal aneurysms are slightly more common than the thoracic.
Causes of Aneurysms in Dogs
The causes of an aneurysm are numerous, and some reasons are unique to a particular type of aneurysm. Elements that can contribute to any kind of aneurysm in your pet include:
- Fungal infections
- High blood pressure
- Parasite infestation
- Undetected congenital conditions
There also seems to a link to familial aortic aneurysm in the Leonberger breed, and head trauma can contribute to a cerebral aneurysm. In humans, cigarette smoke can be a significant contributing factor in developing abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Diagnosis of Aneurysms in Dogs
When an aneurysm is located in the brain, the lack of symptoms generally means that the diagnosis is made post-mortem as the rupture causes cerebral hemorrhage, leading to an extremely rapid decline or instant death. On extremely rare occasions an aneurysm in the brain is caught when imaging the brain for another disorder.
Aneurysms of the aorta are often diagnosed using imaging techniques such as MRI, transthoracic echocardiography, or transesophageal echocardiography.
As peripheral aneurysms are also less likely than the others to rupture they may continue undetected for quite some time. If the bulging vessel is located near the skin, a pulsating lump may be detected by touch. In many cases, your dog's doctor will image the area by ultrasound to further investigate.
Treatment of Aneurysms in Dogs
Cerebral aneurysms are almost universally fatal, sometimes within seconds. Treatment for aortic aneurysms is also extremely limited. Surgery to repair the aorta may take place, but depending on the placement and the dog’s condition, it is often not feasible. Studies are being done on aneurysms using two embolization gels to repair leaks and promote healing, but the testing is still in its infancy. Aneurysms in the legs and other areas may be left untreated if they don’t appear to be causing a problem. Many peripheral aneurysms remain static, although they will be monitored by your veterinarian.
Dogs who develop aortic or peripheral aneurysms are also at a higher risk of developing blood clots. Clots that form at the site of an aneurysm may travel to other parts of the body before lodging in a blood vessel. If this occurs, blood flow past the clot can be interrupted and can cause severe damage to the tissues or organs that are starved of blood, beyond the clot. As this condition can also potentially be fatal, your veterinarian may want to take steps to reduce clotting as well.
Recovery of Aneurysms in Dogs
The prognosis for a dog with an intact aneurysm is guarded. An aneurysm can rupture at any time, or it may never rupture. If it does burst the expected recovery depends on where the weakness is located. When either cerebral or aortic aneurysms rupture, the prognosis is poor, and even a rupture of a peripheral aneurysm can be fatal if it occurs in an artery like the femoral artery, which bleeds out quickly. If your canine companion exhibits any of the signs of an aneurysm, getting them into the clinic as quickly as possible gives them the best shot of survival.
Aneurysms Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Last week, my puppy who had just turned one year old the day before died suddenly. My sisters, brother and I took her for a walk around 8:45, and returned her to our yard at 9:15. We left her outside in the yard, like we always do (we where at our lake house) and came back 20-30 minutes later to find her dead against the fence. She was acting perfectly normal all day, even on the walk she was crazy and hyper as she normally was. When we found her, she was already stiff, and her tounge was black, as where her eyes. She was bit by nothing, and showed no signs of peril before her death. The next day, I checked the yard and found a large spot stained deep red, like tar. It had already rained, yet I still found wet blood on my hand. There was a spot that she must have thrown up (it was at least a pint) a few drops that look like she had staggered to the fence where we found her later. She had no blood on her when we found her. The vet told us that it was either poisoning or a burst artery, but she was around no poisoning at all. Even a week later, we are still questioning how such a healthy, spunky puppy went so quickly. Any suggestions on what the cause was? We have done hours of research and have found realtivley nothing similar to what happened to her.
Condolences on the sudden loss of Callie at such a young age, it is always heart breaking under these circumstances. Without carrying out a full necropsy, we cannot say for sure the cause of death; in dogs Callie’s age, sudden death is usually attributable to poisoning (could have been picked up at any time during the walk) or internal bleeding from an aneurysm or similar defect. Some dogs, like humans are born with defects which act like time bombs which may rupture at anytime, especially after an increase in activity which causes an increase in blood pressure. For an in depth analysis, a necropsy would shed light on your questions. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
My 7 year old girl was playing in the yard. She jumped up as if in pain and collapsed. I’m sure it was an aneurysm. I ran to her and we started CPR. I even got animal control and a police escort to the vet while doing CPR. She was immediately intubated and got epi. Nothing they could do. I miss her terribly. 💔
Yesterday, I came back home and my 5 year old husky was particularly pleased to see me, rolling all over to get herself scratched an caressed everywhere. That is always such a tender and precious moment between us too. One hour later, I look for her in order to play with her. She loved to be chased and when I tell her that I'm going to eat her raw, she goes crazy. Always. In the excitement, she slipped on her bum and couldn't stand up again. The next second she was laying on the floor and all of her paws were tensed and shaking. She died in my arms and I am blessed that I was there when it happened. I like to think that I calmed her when I told her how good she was to me. She was not even 5 years old and full of life. I believe the cause was a rupture of aneurysm.
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my dog was 14 year old maltese she went to the vet because it seemed she was in pain she had had a slight touch of diarrohea she was given scourban by the vet after the second does for some reason she started screaming like she was in pain i put her down to go to the toilet or get a drink she anted neither the screaming continued i took her to the vets they said her temp was normal sh ehad no signs of abdominaldiscomfort they could not find anything wrong. took her home later that night took her back theygave her paim med ir didnt really work took her to anothervet theydid blood tests theysaid her temp and everything wwas normal theygave her pain meds she wasnt eating eventually got het to eat a little baby custard nearly four days later she woke up as usual ran to the end of thebed then ran back looke dshe was going to be sick i picked her up to lift her off she collapsed on her side couldnt stand up her body as stiff hen i picked her up sh elet out a terrible scream her head went to one side she a sdrooling from her mouth her eyes were fixed her body stiff thenshe ent floppy unconscious, i thought she had died i put her in a pen hen i came back shea sbreathing strangley and bleeding either from the nose or mouth i got her to the vets immediatelythey did nothing theylet her die . i do not kno hat happend am looking for a anser
Condolences on your loss, it is normal to want to understand the reason for a loved one passing; but without carrying out a post mortem, we cannot know for sure. Usually sudden deaths or short term illnesses which lead to death are caused by heart conditions (dilated cardiomyopathy for example), the condition may have been with Honey all her life and only manifested itself recently. Other causes like poisoning may have been a cause, but again unless a post mortem is performed we cannot be sure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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